Caesar Salad

Back in the day when I traveled a lot for business, I was taken to a restaurant in Campbell, CA called Renzo’s. Sadly it looks like it is no longer in business. One of the things that made it special is the old-school table-side preparation of their Caesar Salad by the Maitre d’. Being a foodie, I was fascinated to see it done and of course I had to run home and try to recreate it. This is my recipe and it is very close to what I had at Renzo’s and prepared in the exact same way. We do it table-side for our guests when we can, it’s really fun to make, impressive, and it tastes great.

You need a really big wooden bowl to do it right. (Permit me a quick side story. My beautiful salad bowl is 20″ in diameter and is made from a single piece of Maple. Laura bought it for me as a birthday gift when we still lived in Massachusetts. Can’t find a bowl that is made from a single piece of wood that large in this day and age because there are no trees that large any more.) Here is one I like a lot.

Winco WWB-20 Wooden Woven Salad Bowl, 20-Inch

It is important to make sure the lettuce is very cold. Wrap the lemon half in some cheese cloth so you can squeeze it without getting the seeds. If you do this table-side don’t be a wuss and measure everything just eyeball it, it is not that critical. Oh, and you should make your own croutons too by pan-toasting some cut up bread with a little olive oil and salt.

For vegetarians you may substitute 2 tablespoons of capers for the anchovies, these can be mashed or left whole. Be aware that Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies, so it is not “vegetarian” or “vegan”, but to me it would not be Caesar Salad without Worcestershire and anchovies.

The raw egg controversy

Egg may be omitted if you are worried about raw eggs, though I think the boiling water along with the acid in the dressing kills any bacteria that may be present on the outside of the shell, though there is still controversy about this on the internet and no firm conclusions. If you are lucky enough to have a sous vide machine you can set it at 140 degrees and put the egg in there. Salmonella dies at about 136 degrees and eggs don’t start to change their composition significantly till around 142 degrees. Certainly it is more risky to eat raw fish in sushi and sashimi. The best option is to make sure your guests are comfortable with the raw egg. If you omit the egg, you should whisk oil into vinegar slowly to form an emulsion.

Author: Jim Kirkley

Serves: 4

Caesar Salad


INGREDIENTS

2 heads, Romaine lettuce
1 egg
1 teaspoon, Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons, Worcestershire sauce
1 clove, garlic
6 anchovy fillets
1/3 cup, extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon, kosher salt
ground pepper – to taste
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons, red wine vinegar
1 cup, croutons (Homemade is the “bomb” in this recipe.)
2 tablespoons, Parmesan cheese – grated at the table

METHOD

  1. Lettuce should be torn into bite size pieces and should be as dry as possible. Keep lettuce in refrigerator until needed. Never chop the lettuce.
  2. Place garlic clove in red wine vinegar to marinate.
  3. Coddle egg in boiling water by pouring boiling water over egg and let stand. (See notes above about raw eggs.)
  4. In wooden bowl, rub garlic over the inside, then crush garlic in a garlic press and add it to the bowl.
  5. Add anchovies and mash with a fork to a paste.
  6. Add oil, salt, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, squeeze in lemon, and mix with a fork. Everything to this point can be done a few hours ahead. However, you would be depriving your guests of a good show.
  7. When ready to eat add lettuce and toss. Grind pepper, break egg in and toss some more. Add cheese and croutons at table.

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